LAWRENCE, Thomas Edward. The Mint’ and Later Writings about Service Life. Edited by Jeremy and Nicole Wilson.Fordingbridge: Book Printers Limited for Castle Hill Press, 2010. 

Octavo (234 x 154mm), pp. xviii, 270. 8 monochrome plates printed recto-and-verso with illustrations. Loosely-inserted erratum slip. Original RAF-blue cloth, upper board with border of blind rules, spine lettered in gilt, top edges blue, pictorial endpapers, silk marker, original clear dustwrapper. A fine copy. 

‘Library Edition’, limited to 475 copies, this no. 462 of 250 copies bound in cloth. ‘I had the ambition – before I turned back in 1923 and read the Seven Pillars in the cold light of revision – to write a real book: and I thought to find its subject in the Royal Air Force. The […] chapters were noted down night by night in bed at the Depot. […] The Depot I knew was a savage place. That is all changed now: so for fairness’ sake I’ve picked out the few following extracts, mainly from letters to my friends: in the hope that they may give you an idea of how different, how humane, life in Cadet College was. There is no continuity in these last pages – […] How can any man describe his happiness?’ (‘Explanation’, p. [118]).

Lawrence made notes during the early years of his RAF service in 1922 and 1925, and then revised and augmented them while serving in India in 1927-1928. His 1928 manuscript was typed up and copies were distributed to a small circle of readers, including Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard, whose concerns about the dangers of publication persuaded Lawrence to agree that it would not be published before 1950 (however, an edition of 50 copies priced at $500,000 each was published in the United States in 1936 to secure copyright in the USA). In preparation for a 1950 edition, Jonathan Cape set up a revised version of the text in 1948, but the projected edition was delayed until 1955, to avoid the risk of a potential libel action – a risk which ended with the death of an officer whom Lawrence had described unfavourably. 

The Castle Hill Press first published ‘The Mint’ and Later Writings about Service Life in 2009 in an edition of 277 copies. Its text was based on Lawrence’s 1928 manuscript, which is composed of two sections based on his training at the RAF Depot at Uxbridge in 1922 and a third section on his experiences at RAF Cranwell in 1925. Lawrence had intended to add a fourth section, but the surviving notes were too meagre to permit a confident reconstruction of the author’s intentions, so the editors assembled a selection of Lawrence’s later writings about service life drawn from letters and reports dating from 1927 to 1935. These were arranged in diary form, like the preceding sections, and extend The Mint to the end of Lawrence’s RAF service. The 2009 Castle Hill Press edition was followed in 2010 by this ‘Library Edition’ of 475 copies, in which the selection of Lawrence’s later writings is ‘slightly shortened’ (p. [iv]) and the appendix ‘Letters About The Mint’ is omitted.

Cf. O’Brien A166 (NY, 1936 ed.) and A172-173 (London, 1955 eds). 


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